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3 ways to deal with a power-hungry co-worker: ‘They really want to have some control or authority’

By | Aditi Shrikant |

Botthersome co-workers take many forms: the one with no boundaries, the one who hijacks meetings, the one who won’t stop complaining. 

But one of the most anxiety-inducing types of colleagues is the “workplace vigilante.”

A workplace vigilante is a sort of hall monitor of the office. They take it upon themselves to enforce rules that oftentimes management doesn’t even really care about. 

Katy DeCelles is an organizational behavior professor at the University of Toronto who researches conflict, emotion, morality, and aggression. In 2017 she co-authored a paper entitled “Vigilantes at Work: Examining the Frequency of Dark Knight Employees.”

“Vigilantes tend to be people who believe themselves to be more moral than the average person,” she says. “And most people think that, but it’s much stronger and more rigid [in a workplace vigilante].”

They aren’t your boss, but they sure do act like it. “They are people who really want to have some kind of control or authority,” she says. 

Being in the office with a workplace vigilante can make you dread coming in at all. But there are ways to handle a “Dwight-like” personality to minimize both stress and annoyance, says DeCelles.

3 ways to deal with a ‘Dark Knight’ co-worker

1. Cover your bases 

“If there is something that could be construed in a bad way or used against you, be sure you have clarity with the person who is in power over you on that issue,” DeCelles says.

For example, if you know you can’t regularly attend the company all-hands, clarify with your manager why this is the case and ensure it’s okay. This way, if your hypervigilant co-worker brings it up, your boss will be in-the-know. 

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